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Dominion Energy’s Warren County Power Station used ingenuity to save a hive of wild honey bees that were in the path of a construction project. The solution involved bee suits, professional arborists and a unique method of capturing the entire swarm of bees unharmed. “To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever done it this way,” said Rusty Foltz, a local bee keeper and president of the Virginia Beekeepers Association. But it worked. The rescue effort was carried out successfully on May 1.

In late March, a swarm of bees took up residence in a cedar tree right next to a heavy equipment storage area at the power station. The station is currently clearing ground for the construction of a parking lot, and the equipment area was used for parking back hoes, dump trucks and other heavy equipment needed for the project. The bees did not take kindly to the crews firing up their heavy rigs right next to the hive and had a “pointed manner” by which they expressed their displeasure. “It was really a safety issue,” said Station Director Ray Sommerfeld. “The fastest and easiest solution was to exterminate the hive. But we knew that honey bee populations are on the decline and wanted to find a way to safely, relocate it.”

Calls went out to several local tree companies and bee keepers, but none of them knew how to remove the hive from a standing tree. “We were at a loss,” said Frank Dailey, a Dominion Energy’s project manager. “Then Christy Armitage, our environmental compliance coordinator, recommended we contact the Virginia Bee Keepers Association.” That is when Foltz became involved. Foltz did some research and talked to fellow bee keepers and developed a unique plan to capture the hive.

The idea was to wait until evening when most of the bees would be back in the hive. Then – wearing bee suits for protection -- wrap the tree in breathable netting, which keeps the bees in place. Next, employees for Bruce Howard Contracting, the firm building the parking lot, would use their heavy equipment to cut the tree off just below the hive and slowly lower it to the ground so as not to disturb the bees. Once on the ground, the top of the tree above the hive would also be removed, leaving intact the section of the trunk holding the hive. That section would be loaded on to Foltz’ trailer and hauled back to his house.

tree removalAfter checking with Dominion Energy’s Environmental Department and proper state agencies to ensure that everything was a go, the plan was put into play. Bruce Howard Contracting brought in a professional arborist to recommend where to cut the tree and how to place it on the ground without disturbing the bees. The bee team gathered and had the tree disassembled and the bees on the way to Foltz’ home by that evening. It really all went very smoothly said Dominion Energy’s, Dailey. “It actually seemed as if the bees were cooperating with us.” With the hive now at his home, Foltz said over the next week or two he will be trying to lure the bees out of the tree trunk and into a new bee box where they will be safe from back hoes and other heavy equipment. “Wild bees are not faring so well,” Foltz said. “The employees for Warren County Power Station and Bruce Howard Contracting should be commended for the lengths they went to protect this hive.”